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Earthquake death toll rises to 79,000
Updated: 2005-10-19 19:32

Jan Egeland, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, urged China to help because it borders the hard-hit area of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and has a stockpile of winterized tents.

Egeland asked China for 20,000 tents, 10 helicopters and as much cash as possible — hinting at $20 million. Beijing, a close ally of Pakistan, has already pledged $6.2 million directly to Islamabad and sent tents, blankets, water purifying tablets, rescue equipment and a search team.

India was mulling Pakistan's proposal to help quake victims in Kashmir by allowing residents to cross the frontier that divides the disputed territory between them, the latest sign of cooperation between the nuclear-armed rivals since this month's disaster.

India, which has sent quake relief supplies to Pakistan, hailed the plan but said it was awaiting details.

Also on Wednesday, residents of Indian-controlled Kashmir made the first phone calls to the Pakistani side of the Himalayan territory in 15 years, trying to find out what's become of loved ones since the massive South Asian quake, police said.

New Delhi cut communications between its Jammu-Kashmir state and all of Pakistan in 1990 in an effort to stymie an Islamic insurgency there that it charged was being run from Pakistan, an allegation Islamabad denies. Pakistanis can, however, still make direct calls to Indian Kashmir.

At least 54,000 people died in the disaster, most of them in the Pakistani-held part of divided Kashmir. The toll includes 1,361 deaths reported by India on its side of the militarized boundary separating the Himalayan region.

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